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Georgians curse ‘tunnel of misfortune’

KAZBEK BASAYEV/AFP/Getty Images The Georgian Times is running a piece today on the history of the Roki Tunnel, which runs beneath the Caucasus mountains connecting South Ossetia and Russia. As one of the only routes connecting North and South Ossetia, the tunnel was critical in Russia’s ability to launch its counterattack into Georgia on Aug. ...

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KAZBEK BASAYEV/AFP/Getty Images

The Georgian Times is running a piece today on the history of the Roki Tunnel, which runs beneath the Caucasus mountains connecting South Ossetia and Russia. As one of the only routes connecting North and South Ossetia, the tunnel was critical in Russia’s ability to launch its counterattack into Georgia on Aug. 8.

Georgians long resisted the construction of the tunnel during the Soviet period, fearful of an influx of North Ossetians into Georgia, but the project was finally greenlit in the early 1990s by Georgia’s first communist party secretary and later president Eduard Shevardnadze. The Georgian Times notes:

Shevardnadze perhaps did not imagine, when signing off the Roki project, what a fatal role this tunnel would play in the history of Georgia.”

It’s still unclear to me why the Georgian military was unable to block the tunnel during their initial incursion into South Ossetia. President Saakashvili claims that this was part of the plan and troops simply did not reach the tunnel in time. But the Georgian air force has fighter jets and helicopters and it seems possible that they could have attacked the tunnel from the air at the same time, or even before the ground assault on Tskhinvali, perhaps delaying the Russian counterattack long enough to better establish their position. Georgia tried (unsuccessfully) to blow up the tunnel during the civil war in 1991 so it’s not like this is a new idea.

Any readers with a military background care to weigh in?

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